So before the penny-pinching began in earnest and somewhere during my blogging break, we enjoyed a break of a different sort that definitely warrants a mention. It was a one night mid-week escape to the bright lights of the capital city, Dublin.
Given that there are few places more appealing than Ireland in the sun, this mid-June scorcher was looking positive from the moment we hit the motorway and then on checking in to the Dean Hotel, it was clear we were on to a winner.
I had a minor concern that The Dean could be one of those hotels that is trying so hard to be cool, it loses the chilled out vibe it is working to create, but it was not the case. The hotel felt genuinely relaxed and friendly and I loved the retro inspired rooms. The location on Harcourt St. is also a winner for a short break in the heart of the city. They warn about noise from late night revellers and provide earplugs to try and negate it but you will have to ask someone who would not sleep through a tornado to verify the extent of the problem. All I can say is that I slept great…nothing new there.
As you can see the room is full of little quirky touches and while not large, definitely had everything you could need. Beds are comfy, Grafton Barber toiletries are great, the water pressure and temperature were excellent and we played Alanis Morrisette and U2 on vinyl as we got ready to go out. Now that’s a lot of positives. My one quibble would be the lack of chilled complimentary water in a room with a fridge, I always think that hotel rooms with robes, conditioner, Nespresso pods and a steamer (all in The Dean and all very welcome) should stretch to a chilled bottle of still water. And let’s face it if you are including complimentary condoms (they do), an aul’ glass of water can surely be thrown into the mix. Otherwise this was a room that I loved.
We didn’t eat at The Dean, although I do plan to at some stage but we had both pre-dinner drinks and a nightcap on return in the rooftop bar. Given the great weather this was a really fabulous oasis and the drinks were also pretty fairly priced for a trendy, city centre location.
So the verdict on The Dean was that it was a stay where the positives stacked up and the negatives were few. I would happily return.
We chose not to eat at the hotel because there was a little place I was anxious to try and this was not a choice that we lived to regret. The location was The Vintage Kitchen (it was kind of the theme of the trip it seems) on Poolbeg Street and I was so glad I had taken the time to book several weeks before. Arriving a little early we had a drink in another fabled old-school haunt, Mulligan’s Pub, located right next door. This bar has long associations with Dublin’s literary scene and so it was for me a well overdue first visit. The pub is as it always was – perhaps the highest compliment I can pay it.
And then to the main event – dinner. Now this could have very easily gone wrong because I was not eating meat that week (another silly foodie challenge) and the menu here is very concise. A seasonal selection of about four starters and four mains if memory serves. Thankfully, things definitely did not go wrong.
The goat’s cheese starter was stunning (and huge) and given that the veggie main was also very cheese heavy (crepes with Gorgonzola), I enquired about an alternative. I was given the option of a green or a red risotto, I picked green and the picture below will give a sense of the abundant feast that appeared. This was followed by a strawberry tart which was probably the most disappointing of the three courses being a little too creamy and lacking a little in flavour for my taste and a couple of good espressos.
With great food, reasonable prices and a generous BYO policy, I was really sold on this place. My dining partner who believes food is to eat but not to photograph or talk about at length even gushed a little about his pork belly main. Be sure to book in advance but if it is possible then I would definitely recommend an evening meal at The Vintage Kitchen, Dublin.
I love Dublin, and happily visited again a couple of weeks later for Taste – now an annual trip and one of my favourite outings of the year. I do however feel that hotels are allowing prices to rocket in recent months and hope that the search for value will not become a negative in a city that has so much to offer. I would like to visit more often after all.
And so from reminiscences to reality. A new week for the frugal food challenge began today with a breakfast of blueberry pancakes drizzled with honey and topped with some summer strawberries. Pancakes are a great breakfast on a budget when you fancy a treat – flour, milk, an egg and a pinch of salt – all staples in our house and probably yours. Lunch was leftover cold meats (there was chicken and bacon) in wraps with some dressed leaves and homemade pesto mayo for the chicken. Now that just leaves dinner. We have peas and courgettes plus a thriving basil plant and some lemons so I am thinking of a summer risotto. I need to invest in parmesan today so we won’t have meat but when the flavours of a splash of wine, a knob of butter, a dash of cream, freshly ground black pepper, grated lemon zest, summer vegetables and fragrant basil combine I don’t think we will miss the meat. Add slice of crusty bread and a glass of Pinot Grigio because it is the weekend and it will prove that this frugal thing is really not so bad.